I often get asked when kids should start working out in the weight room.
The old idea that lifting weights stunts growth still confuses me. First, lifting weights will not stunt growth in young boys or girls. However, lifting wrong will for sure damage the body. The issue with kids lifting is that whatever they learn young will repeat until it is corrected.
Teaching children to lift properly is critical to their long-term health. Working out the wrong way can and will create habits that will lead to joint, disc, muscle, ligament and tendon issues. What you want to do is as soon as a child can move in a fluid motion and stabilize a joint, start having them go through the full range of motion (ROM), and exercises with no weight/body weight.
This will allow the child to start to set that motion as the way they will train for years. It is hyper-critical they learn this motion properly from day one. Once they have learned how to move their body in the gym, you can start to add resistance to the established ROM. This resistance in the proper ROM will start to build muscle. Since we focused on ROM, form and balance the child will become more functional and stronger without having worries of injuries from muscle imbalance.
No child should be lifting with bars.
Dumbbell bench and body weight squats are good and should be used. Body weight double-leg squats should only be used until the child is strong enough to start doing single-leg squats.
As far as age goes, I have seen kids at 6 that should be in the gym, and I have seen kids at 9 that should not. The question is does your child have a solid grasp and control of how their body moves, and can they follow movement directions. Once that has been mastered, they need to be in the gym working on strengthening the way the body moves properly. Building good movement habits and stabilizing ROM before they start playing sports.
Dr. Matt Chalmers
Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only. Before taking any action based on this information you should first consult with your physician or health care provider. This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions regarding a medical condition, your health or wellness.